The Map that Changed the World
My Father's Keeper
Monster Catfish and other southern comforts
Saturday 13 July 2002
The Map that Changed the World, by Simon Winchester (Penguin, Â£6.99, 338pp)
With a few exceptions, were the first earth scientists a bunch of swindlers? Deborah Cadbury's excellent Dinosaur Hunters revealed how pioneer palaeontologist Gideon Mantell was chiselled out of fame and fortune by Sir Richard Owen. It's much the same story here. William Smith, born the son of a blacksmith in 1769, single-handedly created the first geological map of Great Britain. ?Strata? Smith should have been revered as a giant of science, but his work was plagiarised by rivals, and he found himself in a debtors' prison. Brilliantly disinterred by Simon Winchester, this engaging yarn has a sort-of-happy ending.
My Father's Keeper, by Stephan Lebert (Abacus, Â£7.99, 244pp)
This odd book on the children of Nazi leaders contains much of interest, not least the photos. Gudrun Himmler insists: ?I look on it as my life's work to show my father to the world in a different light.? Her brother Martin regards his father severely, but admits: ?You never escape your parents, whoever they are.? The strongest material comes from interviews by Lebert's father in 1959. Forty years on, Stephan's reflections are of variable interest. It is hard, for example, to see the relevance of the fact that he listened to Dexter Gordon while reading Mein Kampf. Somewhere, an amazing book has been lost.
Moonshire, Monster Catfish and other southern comforts, by Burkhard Bilger (Arrow, Â£6.99, 272pp)
Following his acquisition of a coonhound, this Oklahoma-born New Yorker writer was prompted to explore America's exotic underbelly. With beginner's luck, he catches a 25lb catfish using the technique of ?noodling? or groping: ?I can't feel the fish because my arm is all the way down its throat.? Some Southern treats prove disappointing. The Kentucky snack of squirrels' brains is tainted by the threat of CJD. But one pastime is riding high. When a Tennessee marbles team took on the UK champs, they whupped us hollow.
Boo Hoo, by Ernst Malmsten (Arrow, Â£7.99, 406pp)
Disaster looms from the moment that the author, having sold an early Amazon surrogate, taps into a cashpoint: ?I had never seen so many zeros.? What could be a better move for Malmsten and his ex-model girlfriend than fashion on the net? At its peak, boo.com boasted an online magazine, animation and 3-D graphics. Malmsten partied with Depp, Moss, Gaultier ? Starting as an AbFab script, the book steadily transmutes into an FT insolvency report. The plug was pulled when losses reached $135m. Malmsten's dad offered solace: ?Think of it as a Harvard MBA.?
You won't learn much, but there are few more entertaining business histories.
tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 3 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
Christmas Day TV guide 2014: What to watch from Strictly Come Dancing to the story of Frozen
Best underrated Christmas movies: From Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Felicity Jones on being Stephen Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything: 'I didn't want her to be a saint'
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
The Interview finally gets US release after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader